Despite the multiple obstacles to arise from concerns over data protection and viable business models, the health industry will continue to invest in e-health solutions. The impetus behind these investments include hopes of lowering costs, increased security and better quality healthcare and, ultimately, a healthier population.

A budding market

This past year was marked by challenges to digital giants’ wellness-related ambitions for the wearables market, as they moved into medical wearables. A great many players, from MedTech specialists (Philips and Tunstall) to digital giants (Apple) by way of start-ups and even insurance companies (Axa), have rolled out connected medical solutions and remote video surveillance/monitoring solutions for patients. One of the prime focuses of these initiatives is seniors – they have strong purchasing power and a willingness to use e-health and connected wellness applications (technologies for ageing well) – who form part of the silver economy market. Another growing field of applications is transitional care. The ability to video-monitor patients outside the hospital setting helps reduce the chances of having to readmit them, which would come at a very heavy cost.

Despite strong market potential, business models still present a challenge

The market’s momentum is due chiefly to a core demographic shift, i.e. the ageing population, and the size of health spending. The health industry is working to devise a more nuanced approach that includes protecting patient privacy, while ensuring risk-free acquisition and transmission of health data. Beyond that, while reimbursement policies are still being worked out, the lack of a viable business model could well hamper the market’s development. The industry needs to continue its medical-economic investigations to help authorities define how to finance e-health, and what the priorities should be. At the same time, the traditional healthcare care system needs to undergo a radical change to be able to provide an environment that is compatible with the transformation ushered in by the variety of e-health applications.

Double-digit growth

The e-health market is forecast to enjoy double-digit growth, in both volume and revenue, between 2016 and 2021. Basic connected equipment (connected medical systems and health wearables) should, according to IDATE DigiWorld, grow by an average 16.2% a year during that time. The global e-health services market – comprising healthcare services platforms, data platforms, solutions integration and deployment, and home healthcare services – are expected to reach 38 billion EUR in 2021 (compared to 16.3 billion EUR in 2016), which means average annual growth of 18.5% between 2016 and 2021.

Double-digit growth for e-health services
Internet giants' growing interest in the medical sector
Internet giants' e-health initiatives
Source: IDATE DigiWorld in ''Ehealth''